In order to understand the importance of interrogation training one must understand the impact of confession and statement evidence within our adversarial system of justice. In criminal prosecutions, there are three types of evidence presented to prove guilt:
- Physical Evidence – is at best circumstantial, and although compelling, requires proof.
- Eyewitness Testimony – is rarely 100% reliable. In fact, false eyewitness testimony is one of the leading causes of false conviction in the American Criminal Justice System (and other systems of justice).
- Confessions – can have unique problems as well. False confession evidence for instance is also one of the leading reasons for wrongful convictions. However, when a reliable confession is obtained in a legal manner, it has a profound impact on a jury in a criminal case.
Justices who have rendered opinions on confession evidence have stated that a legally obtained confession is the most compelling evidence of guilt and that the trial for all practical purposes is over when the confession is obtained. Judges, jurors, prosecutors, and defense attorneys understand the gravity of confession evidence, which is why it is so valuable in criminal cases.
Interviews and interrogations are two important processes that have been entrusted to law enforcement by our judicial system and the public in general. Those charged with conducting interviews and interrogations should have access to the best training available. Leaving such important processes to the untrained officer or investigator increases the potential for negative outcomes.
There is another benefit to this training that is often overlooked: Effective interview and interrogation training strengthens an investigator’s interpersonal communication skills, such as rapport building, active listening, and the ability to effectively detect verbal and non-verbal cues, to name a few. These skills are essential to an investigator’s personal and professional growth and will enhance communication, an essential tool for leadership development.
What are some of the benefits of proper interrogation training?
- The truth is revealed
- Ensures the right suspect is held to answer
- Exonerates the innocent
- Minimizes false confessions and wrongful convictions
- Minimizes constitutional or procedural violations
- Helps the justice system operate more efficiently
- Can solve an otherwise unsolvable case (higher clearance rates)
- Can help identify additional evidence, crimes, victims, or witnesses
- Statements can be used for impeachment purposes in court
- Minimize or clear up confusion
- Can reveal security vulnerabilities (like how a suspect was able to get away with it)
- Can help minimize statement admissibility issues
- Can help establish intent
- Can help establish probable cause
- Identify co-conspirators, principals, accessories
- Identify additional appropriate charges
- Gathers more accurate and detailed information
- Can demonstrate consciousness of guilt
- Enhances officer/investigator confidence
- Can help establish degree of the criminal act
- Fewer suppression issues and cases lost on appeal
- Can thwart frivolous defense issues
- Helps to establish guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”
- Can significantly strengthen the prosecution’s position
- Can streamline an investigation
- Can provide actionable information and intelligence
- Can save investigative resources
- Can provide closure for victims
- Can prevent ongoing victimization
- Can result in less time in court for officers, witnesses, and victims
- Can enhance case filings
- Holding the right person accountable enhances community safety
- Can help enhance the law enforcement image
- Can enhance the public trust in law enforcement
- Serves the greater good
- Can prevent costly court overtime
- Enhances officer’s interpersonal communication skills
- When statements are recorded they:
- Can help establish the context of the exchange
- Can establish the emotional state or lack thereof
- Can establish the officers demeanor
- Can prevent false allegations